Kayaking for Beginners: Targets

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The adventure continues.


A white kayak.

At last, after about four weeks of the river Thames having been flagged with red warning boards, along its complete length, flood levels are beginning to drop and the red warnings are giving way to the amber cautionary ones. The upshot of this is that my activities have been limited to the Wey Navigation, a generally much more stable climate, to practice in. To some extent this has been beneficial insofar as it has allowed me to get a fairly regular practice routine going despite having to get clobbered up like Scott of the Antarctic against near freezing and windy conditions for even the most modest of runs.

Currently I have got to a point where after the usual two mile stretch, instead of experiencing almost complete exhaustion, it's left me feeling that I could do more. My longest run has been just over six miles, but this is still a long way short of the target of ten miles I set myself to be completed by the end of last month. That target has now slipped away to the end of this current month.

The water flow on the Thames was prodigious throughout the month, consequently all of the improvers sessions during December were eventually cancelled and no further ones have as yet been put in place for this year, so there’s no real prospect of any accompanied sessions out there at the moment, or in the near future. Nevertheless I’ve been keeping a log of the outings that I’ve made, together with an estimated mileage which at the moment stands at a grand total of 80 miles. Unfortunately only half a dozen of those sessions, amounting to about 20 miles have been on the Thames. With any luck I may be able to get out on the river a bit more often in the near future though, even if I've got to go it alone.

As part of the quest for a bit of speed over and above the rather low four miles-per-hour cruising speed that I manage at the moment, I put in last week a short interval session which was paddling for a minute quite strongly, followed by a rest period of a minute, repeated ten times. This went quite well except for the last three or four intervals which started to become rather erratic and unstable, a sure sign that I was tiring. The conditions were pretty miserable with a light rain from a dead, leaden sky. It was cold too but worse was forecast for the end of the week.

I didn’t have too much spare time for the rest of the week and the forecast was for heavy snow and freezing conditions to arrive on the Friday morning. In order to get in some time on the water before the promised weather clamped down I managed to get out early at the crack of birdfart and did another, almost totally unnecessary, two miler over the usual course. This time though, I just set off as fast as possible and did the course as a time trial to see how quick I could do it, and if I was showing any sort of improvement. My usual time over that distance is something in the order of 20 minutes each way with whatever rest may be needed at the turnaround. This time the Garmin gave a record of the time expended as 38:07 minutes including the turnaround which calculates as a paddle speed of 4.2 mph.

The weather arrived as forecast exactly on time on Friday morning, and seems to have taken everyone by surprise despite having been forecast for the better part of a week. Friday was the day I’d originally planned a long trip, and I was quite prepared to give it a go if the conditions were manageable. Of course it snowed all day and the temperature didn’t manage to crawl above zero, so rather than risk a dunking in very cold water, miles from home I decided to hold off. Saturday turned out to be a sunny but cold day, but I didn’t have the time that day. It snowed big time again all Sunday, much the same as the Friday, so again that was written off.

All in all it’s been a largely unproductive week. My previously stated targets of a comfortably maintained five mph paddling speed through 30 miles in ten hours is still a long way off yet.

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